The Wellington Phoenix have won their third women’s A-League in a row to kick-start life at their new ‘second home’.
Cheered on by a vocal 1,746-strong crowd, the Phoenix have beaten last year’s beaten finalists Western United 3-1 at Porirua Park to make it three wins in a row in the Liberty A-League.
The match was highlighted by young Nix midfielder Macey Fraser scoring a stunning free-kick.
“That was just a moment of magic,” Phoenix head coach Paul Temple told media post-match. “We’re very aware that she’s capable of doing that and we were screaming at her to get on the free-kick.
“Personally, I think she was the best player on the pitch. Just the quality she showed today in everything she did. She looked in control and very at home at this level.
“I thought that was her best performance overall and amazing goal to cap it off.”
Temple and the players relished their first experience at Porirua Park, where their fans were able to get closer to the action than ever before.
“We felt their presence, which was awesome, and their energy,” Temple said.
“I felt like we needed to get off to a good start here so people keep coming back. It was really nice. It was a nice change up and I definitely felt the noise.”
The Phoenix women have already matched their win total from the 2022-23 A-League just four matches into the new season.
“It’s good for the confidence. I keep telling them that we’re a team that is going to cause trouble for anyone in this league and we can beat anyone on our day, and we just need them to keep believing in that.
“The more we play, the more we keep winning and get on a roll the more they believe in themselves, and I think that’s the key.
“They’ve got to keep believing in themselves. Anything’s possible if we can put it all together.”
Three changes to starting line-up
Paul Temple made three changes to the XI which started last weekend’s 2-1 win over the Brisbane Roar, with Rylee Foster, Hope Breslin and Chloe Knott coming into the side in place of Brianna Edwards, Manaia Elliott and the injured Grace Wisnewski. Kelli Brown was promoted to the bench.
Kate Taylor was inches away from getting the Nix off to a dream start in Porirua, shooting narrowly over the bar barely 60 seconds into the match.
Western United had a great opportunity to open the scoring five minutes later when Hannah Keane found Chloe Logarzo with a right-wing cross, but Logarzo was unable to get proper contact with her header and it went wide of goal.
The visitors were the more threatening side for the next quarter of an hour. Adriana Taranto rattled the crossbar with a shot from the edge of the area and Rylee Foster made a good reflex save moments later after Mackenzie Barry had blocked Western’s initial shot.
The Phoenix grew into the game. Half an hour into the match left back Michaela Foster found some space high up the pitch and came close to picking out Knott with a cross, but it was just behind the Wellington midfielder.
The two combined from the following corner, with Knott finding the back of the net from close range after Western were unable to deal with Foster’s delivery.
The Nix had a number of chances to double their lead three minutes later when they played pinball in the visitors’ box after Fraser forced a good save from Alyssa Dall’Oste in the Western goal.
Dall’Oste made a great point-blank save a short time after to deny Speckmaier from just six yards out and Hope Breslin blazed over the bar from inside the box after being well picked out at the back post by Emma Main.
The Phoenix finally got the reward for their dominance four minutes from halftime when Fraser scored her unstoppable freekick which flew into the top corner of the visitors’ goal.
Michaela Foster ensured the Nix went to the break two goals to the good when she made an important goal-line clearance in time added on, after her namesake had been beaten.
Both sides had opportunities to add to the scoreline early in the second half. Western did well to block a goal-bound shot from Main in the 51st minute after she’d been picked out by Speckmaier.
Moments later Rylee Foster had to be quick off her line to win the ball at the feet of Hannah Keane after the American had been slipped in behind the Phoenix back four.
Captain Jaclyn Sawicki had the visitors’ best chance of the 90 shortly after the hour mark but she pulled her left-footed shot wide of goal.
The Nix went 3-0 up in the 77th minute when Western United substitute Keiwa Hieda headed a near post corner from Foster into her own net.
Last year’s beaten finalists had to wait until the third minute of time added on to pull a goal back, with Logarzo denying Wellington a clean sheet with a top-quality strike from outside the box that dipped under Rylee Foster’s crossbar.
The Wellington Phoenix will travel across the Tasman next weekend to play competition newcomers Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night.
Game played on Sunday November 12, 2023
Wellington Phoenix 3 (Chloe Knott 31′, Macey Fraser 41′, own goal 76′)
Western United 1 (Chloe Logarzo 90+3′)
1. Rylee FOSTER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa van der MEER, 6. Macey FRASER, 7. Chloe KNOTT (16. Annalie LONGO 58th), 11. Hope BRESLIN, 13. Michaela FOSTER (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER (9. Kelli BROWN 82nd), 18. Hailey DAVIDSON (23. Rebecca LAKE 78th), 20. Emma MAIN (21. Manaia ELLIOTT 58th).
Unused substitutes: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk).
1. Alyssa DALL’OSTE (gk), 2. Stacey PAPADOPOULOS, 4. Jacyln SAWICKI (c), 6. Chloe LOGARZO, 9. Hannah KEANE, 10. Kahli JOHNSON (12. Lucy RICHARDS 78th), 11. Emma ROBERS, 15. Adriana TARANTO (20. Keiwa HIEDA 58th), 18. Grace MAHER, 19. Tyla Jay VLAJNIC, 22. Alana CERNE.
Unused substitutes: 21. Hillary BEALL (gk), 13. Avaani PRAKASH, 24. Julia SARDO.
15. Adriana TARANTO (Western United) – yellow – 40th
22. Alana CERNE (Western United) – yellow – 78th